Photo courtesy of singtao.com
The Johnnie To Kei Fung directed Chinese French co-production VENGEANCE qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition. Although Cannes has not announced its prizes, To Kei Fung was made an officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. The honor surprised him but also pleased him a lot. His film journey and achievement were still quite far from his idol Akira Kurosawa. He still had a long way to go. He still needed to keep learning. No matter what his heart still belonged to Hong Kong. He would firmly hold down the fort and make even more good movies to share with everyone.
At the same time, VENGEANCE's Cannes premiere took place. Not only the nine jury members attended, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Michelle Yeoh (Yeung Chi King) and other stars came in support. Ang Lee even expressed that the movie that he wanted to watch the most at this festival was VENGEANCE. To Kei Fung's popularity at Cannes was very high, as many European reporters showed their admiration for him.
In recent years To Kei Fung's popularity in Europe has climbed higher and higher. Not only did he frequent the three major film festivals but also served on the Venice film festival jury. The French was particularly fond of him. Almost all To Kei Fung movies were able to be released in France. Young people and film critics alike supported his film and felt that he not only was able to make the mob genre into art but also was able to maintain the Hong Kong specialty. This time VENGEANCE again qualified for Cannes competition. The nine jury members attended the premiere together. Ang Lee after his own film premiere alsocame in support and told reporters that he looked forward the most to VENGEANCE. To Kei Fung in the past almost always used the same cast. This time the lead actor was France's Johnnie Hallyday. However after the firs screening on the morning of the 17th, many reporters felt that despite adding French star and French financing, the film did not lose To Kei Fung's pure Hong Kong film style. On the other hand a few reporters felt that the pace of the second half of the film was very similar to Hong Kong mob films of the 70s and 80s.
Reporters from all over Europe at the first screening all basically gave very high marks and praised To Kei Fung as an excellent filmmaker with his own style. Many reporters expressed that they liked To Kei Fung's films. Some viewers said that although they did not understand the film's second half they still felt it was great. Some reporters also felt that this was not To Kei Fung's best work.
Meanwhile, To Sir at the VENGEANCE press conference expressed thathis first English film, due to his less than adequate English abilities, was a huge challenge for him. However, he added, "As everyone's coordination improved, we were able to smoothly complete the job. To me it is a valuable experience." As for the film's lead actor, To Sir frankly said that initially he wanted to invite Alain Delon but he was not interested. Finally he and Johnny Hallyday clicked right away, but he joked that he did not know Johnny at all before hand. French rock star Johnny Hallyday also honestly said that in the entire production only To Sir was able to speak a little English, but he was very glad to be able to work with Hong Kong actors. He also praised lead actress Michelle Ye (Yip Shuen), who he could not help but fall for.
To Sir was obviously very excited about being able to work with the international team. "I was able to accept some challenges and do something that I was unfamiliar with. I also hope through this production to bring new opportunities for contact between Hong Kong and international film and bring new spark to the Hong Kong industry."
Also, a Mainland site yesterday claimed that Tony Leung Chiu Wai's comment of Hong Kong film industry had generation gap and was under continuous threat, which upset Ah To. "How can he say that? Hong Kong film won't die, he isn't a director......" Ah To yesterday denied the rumor and blamed the reporter for misinterpreting his original intent. "He only wanted to say that only with good screenplays and good directors would a successful actor be cultivated. Then the generation gap situation wouldn't occur." As for his comment becoming Ah To's over the net war of words, Wai Jai expressed, "Everyone's goal is for Hong Kong film to be great. As long as this goal is achieved, I don't mind what is said about me."
Wai Jai yesterday already returned to Hong Kong. He expressed that this year he had no film in competition so he was more relaxed. He said that he would not be a part of the jury. "I am very random when I watch movies, when I am in the mood I watch them. Being a jury member would be very tough." He also said that he has been practicing Wing Chun for months. Everyday he repeatedly perform the same sets of movements, which frustrated him somewhat after awhile.